The “Erin Brockovich” carcinogen is back in the news
Remember that carcinogenic chemical Erin Brockovich exposed in the drinking water of Hinkley, California, back in the 1990s? (It was featured in the movie of the same name, starring Julia Roberts.) It’s called chromium-6, and a recent analysis of federal drinking water data by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), found an unsettling amount of it in sinks across the country. “In the tap water of at least 200 million Americans in all 50 states, chromium-6 has been detected above the minimal risk level,” says David Andrews, PhD, an EWG senior scientist. “By and large it can be found in most water at varying concentrations, yet there’s no federal drinking water regulation to keep it in check.” Although chromium-6 can occur naturally, it is also an industrial chemical with a wide variety of uses. If you want to know if chromium-6 was found in your area’s water, check this interactive map compiled by the EWG. Make sure you know what kinds of gross bacteria could be growing in your tap water if you don’t use your faucet for a few days.
Teflon chemicals could mean trouble
Other unregulated contaminants on the EWG’s radar are two “perfluorinated” chemicals long used in many consumer products: PFOA, formerly used to manufacture Teflon, and PFOS, formerly a Scotchgard ingredient. A 2016 EWG analysis of drinking water data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the water supplies of over 5.2 million homes could be contaminated with these chemicals—which have been linked to developmental and reproductive health problems—at levels higher than those considered safe by the EPA.
Metals, like lead, can lurk in water
Lead is a natural chemical element not generally found in the rivers and lakes that supply a water system. But it can sneak into your water supply via the plumbing—including the pipes that connect homes to water mains as well as the solder, pipes, and fittings, according to the EPA. They recommend that if you have a lead service line, you contact your local water supplier to determine if your H20 should be tested. Some areas of the country also have site-specific problems, adds Raymond M. Hozalski, a professor in the department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering at the University of Minnesota. For example, the toxic metal arsenic has been found in groundwater supplies in some parts of Western Minnesota, where treatment options are available to remedy it. Here are the 10 ways your body changes when you start drinking enough water.